An Outdoor Banner Series
out there is a series of banners on the exterior of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.
Take a drive by the gallery at 1080 Keewatin St and experience images, stories, and moments by new creative voices in northern Ontario.
Each banner is a bold canvas for artists, designers, and makers who experiment with new media, take new paths in artistic careers and claim space beyond traditional art gallery walls.
Be out there.
“Indigenizing pop culture references is just one small way to bring more Indigenous joy. Laughter is such good medicine and so many of us need more of that in our day-to-day.” Auntie Bree Island
Bree Island, also known as Auntie Bree, is a nehiyaw iskwew / Cree woman from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, Treaty 8 territory. She is a visual artist, unsettled and unapologetic matriarch with deep ancestral roots, unleashing her creativity at the intersection of art and technology, and the traditional and digital. Much of Bree’s creative energy is focused on reclaiming cultural knowledge, weaving stories old and new, decolonizing spaces, and imagining Indigenous futurisms. Her art is a response to increasing Indigenous access to their ancestral stories and creating art in motion to show that Indigenous peoples exist as living, breathing, and vibrant cultures. Bree’s art is also an intimate sharing of nehiyaw / Cree worldviews and teachings.
Bree and her partner FabJab, are owners of Mixed Creatives, a global GFX VFX studio. They specialize in digital illustration, graphic design, 2d/3d animation, and VFX. Both Bree and Fab are self-taught artists, with art being a shift from their corporate careers and university degrees, respectively, in environmental sciences and physics. Their art is a portal to healing intergenerational trauma, sharing visual stories as acts of resistance, ancestral reminders on how to decolonize our minds, and a place where transformations can be witnessed.
About the IMAGE
“Hey everyone out there in Indian territory” is a direct quote from the hit comedy series Reservation Dogs which follows the lives of Native American youth on a reservation in Oklahoma. For Bree, this work is “a tribute to the hottest Indigenous comedy drama TV show.” When Season 1 ended in the autumn of 2021, Auntie Bree, like so many others, just wanted more Rez Dogs content.
Bree’s image is bright and playful capturing the spirit of youth on a summer night. It also welcomes a conversation about who uses specific words and why. Bree says, “I don’t personally use the term indian, but as a native pop culture reference, it was key to supporting the play on rez “doge” and the show.”
The many layers of “Rez Doge”
“Outside of the context of the show,” says Bree, “rez dogs are our four-legged relatives. Indigenous people have a long deep-rooted history of dogs being a part of our communities. Rez dogs are not just mutts, they guard our homes from bad medicine, they speak the language of the land, they are messengers. So many of us grew up with stories of the rez dogs we’ll never forget, stories of shared adventures, love, and shenanigans.”
“Also, relevant to 2021,” she continues, “was all the buzz about NFTs and cryptocurrency. Anyone doing some research into crypto might stumble upon the face of internet meme sensation Doge, a Shibu Inu, now seen as the face of Dogecoin (DOGE, symbol: Ð) which is a crypto system originally created as a joke.”
The original “doge meme” hit the internet in 2013.
“Fans of doge disagree, sometimes passionately, about how to pronounce doge. Common pronunciations are “dawj,” “dohj” and “dogue” (like vogue), but others like “doggy” also exist.” – Dictionary.com
“Meme lords love memes within memes. And Indigenous artists love to Indigenize memes.,” says Bree. Auntie Bree created Rez Doge with a little something for all our relations using humour to warm hearts.
Going to Kokom’s
Kokom or Kokum is the Indigenous term for grandmother. Spellings and pronunciations vary from region to region. In Anishinaabe territory the common term is Kokum (pronounced KOH-kum).
While visit to grandma’s is a universal experience for young people, it can have particular significance within Indigenous storytelling. “Going to Kokum’s” speaks to the complexity of kinship, and the ongoing loss and reclamation of stories, teachings, and cultural knowledge. A Kokum is often a person who has knowledge to be shared or passed down. As in many cultures, grandma’s is a place to go for comfort, understanding, and a cup of tea.
Kokum scarves, or headscarves with bright floral designs, are also “iconic,” of Indigenous elders throughout the modern history of colonialization. Kokum scarves are part of current trend, or moment of Indigenous art, fashion, and design influence.